Groceries In The San Blas Islands

As you may imagine, keeping stocked on groceries and supplies in the San Blas was challenging, to say the least. Although we were glad that Howard’s trip to the vet in Panama City resulted in no real issue, it gave me the chance to stock up on groceries and such. As long as the round trip by water and land was already in motion (to the tune of $200.00+ dollars) it was smart to fill the car and get my money’s worth!

With the trip to Panama City being logistically and time challenging, as well as costly, cruisers usually find other ways to get what they need.

There are several larger islands that have tiendas, or stores, on them. They offer a limited selection of canned items, rice, boxed milk and juice and produce that is more shelf-stable, such as onions, carrots, eggs (not refrigerated here) and potatoes.

Boats from Colombia arrive with supplies for these stores at various times each week, bringing with them, among other things, fresh produce. Scott is amazed that these old, wooden boats (that have seen much better days) make the journey to and from the San Blas, without breaking apart in the big waters off of Colombia.

Unfortunately, the fresh stock is usually depleted within two days, so unless you happen to be very close by when the word gets out about a boat coming in, you’re out of luck.

Many out here use the chance to have things brought to them through other cruisers who may be traveling to Panama City, or through friends (or friends of friends) coming to visit. We have taken advantage of all three of these scenarios to restock on hard goods and groceries.

So….unless you are traveling near one of the larger villages when a shipment arrives, or have some form of Panama City connection coming to the area, the usual cruiser method for getting food (aside from fishing) is the veggie boat.

These pangas visit the many anchorages in the San Blas, bringing with them fresh veggies, fruit, beer, boxed wine, soda and sometimes meat and cheese. Their boats are filled with bags and crates of goods, and many also have “mobile” freezers, that may contain celery, parsley, chicken, cheese or butter.

Some items are weighed by a hand-held scale, and others are sold by piece. We (especially Scott) have become familiar with most words needed to communicate what foods we need. For the rest, we just point.

Word spreads of these traveling grocery stores’ arrival over the vhf radio. You may hear, “There’s a veggie boat in the anchorage!” or, “A veggie boat is just left Esnasdup, on it’s way to Green Island.” Some cruisers even have direct access to the boats by phone, and alert others as to when they will be coming to certain anchorages: “A veggie boat will be in the eastern Holandes early tomorrow morning, around 8am.” Knowing a boat is on the way gives you a heads up to stay put and be on alert, so as not to miss your chance at buying food!

In anchorages farther east, such the Holandes (swimming pool and hot tub), where we spent much time, the boats have to pass through stretches of open ocean, and come less frequently when strong winds are blowing. Between high winds and the holidays, we went almost three weeks without seeing one around Christmastime.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re by no means in danger of starving here aboard Sea Life. We packed her to the gills with canned and dry goods before coming to the San Blas, along with plenty of soda and alcohol. However, you never shake the panic of not having convenient access to things, especially fresh food.

It has become more and more common for pangas to bring pre ordered groceries out to cruisers at anchor, especially to those who stay out for months at a time, or even year-round. Recently, these boats have even started to deliver diesel, gasoline and water…smart thinking!

The veggie boats usually stop first at cruisers who have placed an order, and then proceed to sell to the rest of the anchorage, usually starting at the front of the pack, working their way back. The excitement of spotting a veggie boat is quickly deflated by having it blow by you, and then watching and waiting for it to stop at all the other boats before coming to yours. Since we usually try to be toward the back of an anchorage, and away from any crowd of boats, we are typically one of the last ones “in line.”

This whole process is incredibly stressful for Scott. Once the panga has been spotted, and identified that it is indeed a veggie boat, he keeps track of it’s progress through the anchorage, eyes peeled through binoculars, trying to see how much is being taken at each stop. I commonly hear, “@#%*@#!, so-and-so just hauled up two buckets full of stuff onto their boat! They just got here yesterday, and we’ve been here a week! We’re going to be last, and there won’t be anything left but some rotten @#%*!

These veggie boats must smell interesting to Howard, because once they’re tied alongside us, he jumps up on the rail, or cries to be held, to see what’s going on. Most of the men were taken aback at first, as Howard is much larger than any island cat (he is in no danger of starving either). We hear…“Grande!” or “Mucho Gato!” Several boats have learned his name, and call out “HOW-arrd!” as he appears.

The usual veggie boat produce choices include: cabbage, iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and occasionally green beans.

Unfortunately, as you may expect, the quality of these items isn’t always the best. Tomatoes are hard, and very often more green than red. No matter how hard you try, they will not ripen, and instead rot pretty quickly if not used. Carrots and cucumbers can be gigantic, and sometimes bitter as a result.

The outer leaves of cabbage and iceberg lettuce heads are usually peeled off when sold, to exposed the non-wilted, inner leaves. We were so desperate for lettuce after one “dry spell,” that we paid for these sad, little things….the tiniest heads of lettuce ever seen!

Fruit offerings usually consist of pineapple, papaya, apples, limes, oranges, grapefruit, bananas and mangoes (once, I got avocados). The pineapples have been decent, but not nearly as good as the candy-sweet ones we were getting in Bocas del Toro, and the poor apples that I’ve tried are just tart and tasteless. I’m not a papaya fan, and the mangoes are very stringy, making them hard to eat. The damned bananas stay green and hard forever, and then ripen and rot in just days. As a result, we have eaten many banana muffins!

I’ve mentioned before that we have discovered “limon mandarinas” during our travel in Panama. They are about the size of a mandarin orange, and usually beat up-looking on the outside. The inside is orange, but tart like a lime. However, they are a bit sweeter, and juicer than the tiny, key lime-like ones that are also offered, and we’ve come to like them much more. Here’s a quick photo I grabbed from the internet, as we are currently out of them.

Image result for limon mandarina

We’ve gotten good celery and parsley from inside the “mobile” freezer, and there’s almost always “culantro.” It grows wild in the area, and smells and tastes exactly like cilantro.

I once saw shredded cheese in the freezer, and have also heard of people getting butter from it as well.

On one occasion, we were told by a veggie boat that they had chicken (pollo) available. Scott indicated, by putting two fingers toward his eyes and then toward the freezer, that he wanted to “see” said pollo. Out came a whole, dead chicken, and I mean whole…no feathers, but head, beak, legs and feet intact. I was definitely not up for that remote island challenge, so we passed on the pollo.

Overall, there are many more food choices than I expected to get here in the San Blas, and for the most part, we’re satisfied with what we get, and enjoy it. Here’s the result of a good veggie boat visit for us. Notice Howard getting right to work on his favorite…the pineapple tops.

Thankfully, Scott’s prediction of empty bins with only some rotten @*#! left, only happened to us once. There was almost always a decent choice of food left the in the boat when it arrived, and we’d live to eat another day.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Howard’s Trip To Panama City

In late January, Howard began showing symptoms of a urinary issue; many trips to the litter box, leaving just dribbles behind. Before we left Baltimore, I’d visited our home vet, Dr. T., to stock up on various medications that Howard might need, so luckily there were antibiotics on board for him.

After a week, Howard showed no sign of improvement, so at Dr. T’s recommendation, we doubled his dose, meaning getting two eye droppers full of medicine in him instead one….fun for all!

Almost three weeks later, Howard was just marginally better. He then began throwing up, and I couldn’t get him to keep anything down. After three days with no water, we were very concerned, and began to make a plan to get Howard to a vet in Panama City.

The glitch was, that we had cleared out of Panama in December. There is a checkpoint stop on the road to Panama City, and if you do not have a valid stamp, off to jail you go. Our hope was to appeal to immigration on the island of Porvenier. Recent laws prohibit checking in and out of Panama in the San Blas. Boaters who are cleared into the country are only able to visit Porvenier to renew their stamp for an additional three month stay.

We left our anchorage in the Coco Bandero Cays, and traveled four hours to Porvenier, with fingers crossed that we could plead our case. Scott sent me in alone, to deal with the immigration officer, since only one of us needed to travel to the city, and we may have better luck with a female pleading the case.

“Joe” was a bit miffed that we’d checked out of the country 45 days earlier, bound for Cartagena, and were still in the San Blas (cruisers often do this with no problem…until there’s a problem). Because we both had “time” left in the country when checking out in December, Joe told me that if we traveled back to Portobelo (14 hours by boat), the immigration officer there would be able to cancel our exit stamps.

We didn’t have the extra days that it would take to do this, and then get to the vet. There was also the issue of getting back to the San Blas, with winds expected to pick up. I explained that we’d had steering trouble, and were unable to get back to the mainland by boat (a big fib on my part).

After two hours of back and forth, with few words understood between us, many pictures drawn and tears on my part, Joe told me to have Scott come to the office. When Scott arrived onshore in the dinghy, I told him to relay that he spoke no Spanish (when in fact, he can get by quite well now), and brought him up to speed on the story inside so far.

Once we were both back in the office, there was more of the same back and forth, before Joe finally consented to canceling our exit stamp, marking next to them in Spanish that seas were not good for us to make it to Cartagena. He told us to come back to see him for Scott’s renewal stamp (mine was due much later, as I was re-stamped when flying back in from the U.S. in October), and then again to get stamped out of Panama.

Thrilled that our pleas had worked, we raised anchor, and made a quick hour-long run to an anchorage near the docks at Carti, which is on the mainland. I’d contacted Emilio, who we’d planned to use for provisioning, and asked him to help me arrange transportation to get Howard and me to the vet, as I had no idea how to proceed.

Howard was loaded into his carried, and Scott took us to the dock in the dinghy, where we hopped into a running, air conditioned suv. It was a three hour ride across the mountains, through a checkpoint at the border of the Guna Yala region, into the city and to the vet. The driver maneuvered the road like the car was on fire, hitting the many curves and potholes at full speed. I was shocked that the car’s axles didn’t snap. Howard endured the “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” like a champ.

As we came down the mountain road, and headed toward the city, the driver pulled into a gas station…presumably for gas. He stopped the car, with the engine running, and proceeded to take a nap! When I realized what was going on, I was both irritated that we’d stopped for this, with my cat needing to get to the vet, and glad that he had the good sense not to fall asleep at the wheel.

Deciding  that a ten minute nap was fair, I watched the clock, preparing to wake him up. He popped up on his own, after seven minutes, declared, “Good! and we continued on. We made our way into town, and I was delivered right to the door of the vet.

I didn’t have an appointment, and thankfully a young  man waiting with his own cat helped me to speak with the woman behind the counter. After a very short wait, Howard and I were in a room with a vet, who thankfully spoke English. She took Howard away, to use gas to relax him for testing. Howard is not a good vet patient. At home, there is a “caution” sticker on his folder.

In the meantime, Emilio arrived to sit with me, in case I needed help with translation. The vet spoke very good English, but Emilio did help me arrange a hotel for the night. With the “Carti” road closed at 7pm, there was no way to get back to the boat in the same day.

Howard’s initial tests: blood, urine, xrays and sonograms all came back clear. Hmmm. I arranged for him to stay overnight, wanting him to receive fluids.

Emilio then took me shopping, stopping first at Riba Smith, a large grocery store with many American items. I was in heaven, and loaded up on cream cheese, butter and other goodies from home. We then went to a nearby mall, where I was able to buy some magazines printed in English! I arrived at the hotel later that evening, with some McDonalds food in tow.

After turning the air conditioning down to a chilly 68, and watching some English channels on tv, I happily fell asleep in the comfy hotel bed. At 3am, I woke in a sweat. When I tried to adjust the thermostat, it crackled and sparks came out…not good.

I called the front desk, and they sent someone to “check” the thermostat, most likely thinking that I couldn’t manage to set the temperature on my own. After getting his own set of crackles…and some smoke, the man cried “Oh!…Bad!,” and called back down to the front desk.

I was told that they were happy to move me to another room, but unfortunately it was on a different floor. That didn’t bother me in the least, as I was determined to absorb as much air conditioning as possible, so I loaded up my backpack, and made my way down two floors at 3:30 am, barefoot and in my pajamas. There I resumed sleep, in a freshly cooled room.

The next morning, after enjoying the complimentary breakfast buffet (I am told that all hotels/B-n-Bs/inn, etc. are required to provide a free breakfast to their guests), I met Emilio and his friend, Gil, who sped me off for more provision shopping.

Our first stop was to Pricesmart, a membership bulk store owned by Costco. I loaded my cart with soda, bacon, lunch meat, cheese, vinegar (used for monthly toilet deep cleaning, and laundry) and various other things. The next stop was to a local bulk store, which offered some of my wish list items at better prices than Pricesmart, such as wine, rum and sprite.

I checked in with the vet, who said that Howard hadn’t eaten, but she didn’t expect him to while in a strange and stressful place. He’d been given fluids, and a shot of both antibiotic and something for his stomach. She declared Howard ready to leave, so we planned one more stop before heading over to pick him up.

Our last stop was one more visit to Riba Smith, where I purchased more cold items, and some bags to keep them cool for the journey back to Sea Life.

Emilio said his goodbyes, as he had another client to meet. Gil would be taking me to collect Howard and then to meet my ride back across the mountain. Emilio’s help had been invaluable, knowing where the stores were, which ones had the items I wanted and at the best prices. The process would have taken far longer on my own.

Gil and I arrived at the vet, where Howard was growling at anyone who came near him. He calmed when he heard my voice and received some petting in his carrier. I paid my bill of 180.00, which included the vet visit, overnight stay, xrays and sonograms of stomach and bladder, blood and urine tests, two injections each of antibiotic and gastro meds, iv fluids and some cat food for urinary tract health…much cheaper than US prices!

Nacho, the driver who would take us back to the Carti docks, was waiting outside a small local restaurant at the start of the mountain road. We loaded all of my things, and Howard, into his car, filling all but the passenger seat (the area behind the back seats was piled high, and the floors under both Howard and me were packed full).

Along the way, we stopped for Nacho to relieve himself behind the car, a much faster delay than the previous driver’s nap. At the Guna Yala checkpoint, the official who came to the car windown to check my passport was intrigued with Howard, waving over the other guards to see him, calling, “Howard, Howard!”

When we arrived at the Carti dock, I asked Nacho to help me get a panga ride back to the boat, as I hadn’t prearranged one. He loaded my things onto a panga, with several locals onboard waiting to depart. It took five trips of heavily loaded wheelbarrows to get my stuff onto the panga, and when I walked down the dock with Howard, to get on, the driver wasn’t happy. Apparently, Nacho had told him that I had only a few things. “Senora”, he said, “this is a supermarket!” In his defense, it was a huge amount of stuff.

After a short, five minute ride, we were back at Sea Life, where Scott was waiting to help unload my things. Howard was glad to be home, and seemed none the worse for wear. He immediately wanted food, ate plenty of it and then settled into a deep sleep in his taco, sporting his new haircut.

 

Scott was quite peeved that after the whole, logisticly-challenged ordeal, the vet had found nothing wrong with Howard. We think that his urinary issues were near done, and the gastro stuff had almost worked their way through; the injections may have also helped resolve both issues.

In the end, maybe Howard just wanted a few days away from the boat….and an adventure.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Grocery Excursions To Bocas Town

Here at Red Frog Marina, we again have to take a panga to town for groceries and such. The ride is a bit longer, taking approximately ten minutes. Unlike Bocas Marina, where there were five departures a day, five days a week, here at Red Frog the panga leaves the marina dock only once, at 9:45am, four days a week. It returns from town at 11:30, and then again at 1pm.

Most every day, the boat leaves with a full load of people. The drivers seem to know only two speeds, fast and stop (ok, I guess stop’s not a speed, but you get the idea). This make for quite a “spirited” ride, as we bang our way over the water toward town. I hold my breath every time, praying that the boat won’t break in half. We’ve learned that securing a seat toward the back of the boat makes for a much more comfortable, less back-jarring ride. Spirited driving aside,  the ride to town is a scenic one.

Once at the dock, we all crawl out and scatter like ants to fill our shopping lists. This can be a crap shoot. Deliveries come on all different days, for both fresh food and canned items. Some stores run low or out of stock before others, and they all vary in price by as little as a few cents, to almost a dollar (the same is true for Scott’s hardware needs). As a result, you end up visiting several locations to find what you need. If we find something we may want later, we grab it .

Never knowing exactly how much we’ll get in town, or how heavy our load will be, Scott and I come armed with two back packs (Scott’s backpacking pack, for days we know the load will be heavy), a very large tote, several cold bags and some smaller, reusable grocery bags as well.

All of the stores in town, from grocery, to pharmacy to hardware, are run by Chinese families. They work long hours, usually from 8 or 9am until 10:00 at night. There are at least seven stores on the main street, but three stores have become our favorites:

Isla Colon is the largest, with a good selection of items. Felix, the owner, and all of his employees are always friendly and accommodating. He will also order special request items and have them brought in (like some spiced rum for Scott!). I think he’ll  miss Scott when we finally leave.

Vegetables are located in a separate room, where an employee stands by to weigh and tag your things before checking out.

We go to Christina’s for items that we cannot find at Isla Colon and other things that are a bit cheaper, or if we’re searching for fresh vegetables that Colon may be out of. Here, all the produce is located outside the store.

Super Gourmet brings in items from the U.S. that we haven’t seen elsewhere (Philly cream cheese, decent bacon, certain snacks, etc.) In addition to selling sandwiches, salads and local chocolate, they are very air conditioned! The employees here are crazy friendly, always greeting us with a smile and a hello, as we come in from the heat, drop our bags and suck up the cool air while we shop.

If we’re lucky, we are in town when meat gets delivered, in the form of a whole, bloody side of beef, on a tarp in the back of a truck. The large section of cow is then drug into the store and hung up behind the meat counter, before being cut on site. Needless to say, I have not been craving steak!

You can also purchase one of just about everything. It’s not uncommon to see a six pack of something opened, with one or two cans missing. When we asked to purchase a box of Alieve at the pharmacy, they looked at us like we were crazy; buying just two or three pills at a time is the norm. And if you’re craving a grilled cheese sandwich, help yourself to just one or two wrapped slices of cheese!

Unfortunately, the stores we need are not all located next to each other, or even on the same street, so a hot, sweaty walk is involved. We try to plan our route so that the load is heaviest at the end, but this doesn’t always work out. Many times, I trudge to the other end of town for something I’ve forgotten, my back and arms screaming at me the entire time.

At a steady, sometimes rushed pace, we usually finish in time for the 11:30 panga. Other days, we are affected by island time, and end up waiting for the 1:00 ride. There aren’t many places open for lunch in town, and it’s usually too bloody hot to stroll the streets, so if finished before departure time, everyone gathers at the panga stop in town to wait in the shade (I usually fill my time with wiping the sweat from my body). When it’s time, our group climbs aboard, with everyone helping to hump on the heavy bags.

The 11:30 panga makes three stops on the way back to the marina, to pick up lunches for employees at Red Frog who are working on the resort construction (homes, pool, clubhouse, etc.). We stop once at a place in Bocas Town, pulling up to the pier, as the lunches are handed over.

Next, we make our way over to Basti Town, on the other end of Bastimentos Island from our marina. Here, we make two more stops, to load on more food.

The 11:30 panga is almost always packed full, beyond full, with people, bags and supplies for the resort. Several times, I’ve been terrified the whole way home, that we’ll crack down on a wave and split in half from the weight onboard, sinking to the bottom with the groceries that I hunted, humped and sweated bullets for.

One of the most concerning trips was when we were loaded full of people, many heavy groceries and several 100 pound propane tanks. On our way to Basti Town, we slowed so another panga could transfer someone onto our boat…for real?!?

We then made our usual stops for lunch loading, and took off for Red Frog. The boat was riding below the water line, and Scott was soaked from incoming waves on the windward side as we sped toward home.

The ride goes something like this.

When we arrive back at the marina, everyone again crawls out onto the pier and helps each other unload.

Each time, I count myself lucky that I’ve survived another eventful shopping adventure! Here are more photos of our grocery excursions.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Eating And Shopping On San Andres

We’ve had a chance to eat at several restaurants during our stay here, and most are very affordably priced. After noticing La Regatta on my morning walks, Scott and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner out.

We enjoyed the walk down the path leading to the restaurant, with it’s quirky decor.

We were seated at a table on a pier out over the water, giving us a great breeze as we ate our meal.

One of our neighbors here in the anchorage recommended Breadfruit, and it’s become a regular stop for us. They have a great assortment of fresh bread and pastries. I was reluctant to try their cakes, having that bar set very high from my beloved Sugarbakers Cakes back home (if you live within a 50 mile radius of their location…GO!) .

We can get two orders of scrambled eggs with toast, fresh juice, water and a large pastry for 10.00 (includes tax and a tip), which is not too shabby!

Scott discovered El Corral, along the promenade. It has been a welcome answer to his McDonald’s cravings. I passed on the burger, but the fries were pretty darned good. There’s also a Subway across the street from the marina where we land the dinghy. That’s been great as well!

As far as day-to-day groceries, there are two large stores with a great selection of fresh produce. We’ve been able to get broccoli, mushrooms, green leaf lettuce and fresh basil! Many fruit vendors with carts of all sizes can be found throughout the downtown area, selling avocados, mangoes, bananas, and some stuff we’ve never seen.

There are many small markets on the island as well. One in particular sells things imported from the U.S, and we’ve enjoyed finding familiar items, like Philadelphia cream cheese (we have found nothing similar to cream cheese in either Mexico or Central America).

Prices here are pretty cheap for soda, and even cheaper for beer. Scott wanted to stock up on Coke for his evening cocktails, so we did a big “can run.” He humped 102 cans back to the boat on his back….a man on a mission.

His months-long search for stainless steel chain finally came to an end on San Andres. After scouring several hardware stores in town (all of which have a great overall selection), we arrived at this one. Orders are placed at the counter, similar to an auto parts store in the U.S.

The man who waited on us spoke great English, and when the exact thickness of chain that we wanted wasn’t available, he told Scott to go across the street to the warehouse, and see if what they did have in stock would work.

The warehouse was a two story building packed full of stuff. The men inside showed Scott the chain, which worked just fine, and they cut it and carried it back across the street for payment. Quest complete!

Shopping “for fun” is big business here. If you’re looking for perfume, scented body lotion, linens, electronics, athletic shoes and clothing, liquor, luggage or candy, you’re on the right island! Everything is duty free, and some stores carry all of these items. La Riviera is one of the largest, and has locations all over downtown (and downtown ain’t that big!), with their “flagship” store along the promenade.

And, Under Armor is in the house! For those who don’t know, this world wide athletic clothing company is based out of my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland! (read how they got started – early history)

In the midst of the larger stores are many small stall-type shops, selling the usual beach-type clothing, woven bags and trinkets.

So there seems to be something for everyone here on San Andres. The many places to eat and shop have definitely kept us entertained. Here are many more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

Groceries on Providencia

The quest for fresh produce here on Providencia has been really challenging. We see several supply ships come and go regularly each week, but it’s clear by the selection in the stores that produce isn’t their main cargo.

Aside from the usual “splurges,” groceries here are inexpensive. Liquor is cheap and duty-free, but the selection is terrible, much to Scott’s dismay.

There are three stores less than a block from each other in town, as well as a produce stand farther up the road. We venture to all of them first, and then backtrack to who’s got the best looking stuff. We’ve been told that Saturday is produce boat day, but have yet to see it reflected in the stores. Everything is closed on Sunday, and by Monday the selection is already starting to dwindle and rot.

Supermarket Erika has become our haven for ice. They sell purified drinking ice in decent size bags for $1.00 each, which thrills Scott.

They also keep a small stock of tortillas, which are impossible to find anywhere else. Once, we found romaine lettuce here in good condition, and snatched it up. Aside from that, we stick to hard goods here. We purchased chicken that was falling out of it’s wrapping, leaving a bag full of meat juice for us to find when we got back to the boat. Chicken here is tougher than we’re used to, so marinating is helpful.

I call this place the “downstairs store,” as you go down two steps from the street, and then another five or six to get inside.

We’ve found that the produce is usually best here, but that’s not always saying much. Often I reach in the case for a tomato, and my fingers go into mush..ick.

There is no mass-produced bread here on the island; instead,  everything comes from the bakery in town. The bread and rolls arent’ the yummiest, but it does the job.

This store is referred to as the “upstairs store,” separating it from the downstairs store and Supermarket Erika.

This place is our least favorite for fresh stuff. Sadly, their produce is horrible. Sometimes, I don’t even know what the stuff is, or was.

I’m not sure why, but all of the stores just keep the rotten and wilted produce out on the shelves to die.

We’ve recently discovered a fourth store in town, which is now referred to as the mustard store.

We now find that they regularly have the best produce. Scott even came home one day with a beautiful bag of spinach!

Providencia has been our most challenging grocery experience, but we’re making due. Here are a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Cruising Life – Passages

Several people have commented on our blog, asking about  passages; how we decide when to go and what happens along the way. What follows are my thoughts, and our routine for passages. Disclaimer: *these opinions do not reflect those of the general population of cruisers. They may not be the norm, but these are my feelings (the good, the bad and the ugly) about the whole process. It’s lengthy, but hopefully interesting and informative.

A cruiser’s life is made up of passages and/or crossings, there’s no way around it. Traveling from one side of an ocean to another is referred to as a crossing, which can take weeks (many weeks, when it comes to the Pacific). This girl has no intention of ever making a crossing, a feeling which has been reinforced on our passages during this journey.

Passages take you from island to island, or country to country, which may call for you to travel eight or ten hours, or three, five or seven days without stopping. You’re not crossing an ocean, but are frequently traveling a decent distance, which very likely includes traveling throughout the night. Reasons for going round the clock vary: there aren’t any safe or protected places to anchor for the night, you only have so much good weather to get to your destination, you have to arrive at a location by a certain date or any combination of these scenarios.

Our overnight passages are dictated by a bit of all three. If we want to head for a new location that takes days for us to get to, anchoring in safe spots along the way to break it up may mean staying there for days or weeks, waiting for favorable weather to continue on. This cuts into the time in our intended destination, and because our cruising life isn’t open ended, we prefer not to spend time waiting en-route if it can be helped. Other times, there aren’t any safe anchoring options along the way, even if we wanted to stop, so over-nighters are what we’re left with.

No matter what reasons make up your decision, at the core, weather is definitely the driving factor. You always want great weather, and why wouldn’t you? Sailors want wind, not a gale, but more than a breeze. Even though we travel at sailboat speed, we are a still a power boat, so we look for as little wind as possible. There are countless sources for wind, waves and overall weather prediction, and Scott consults many of them. In addition to reading many, many books, he has taken extensive classes taught by Lee Chesneau, a meteorologist who provided weather routing for the U.S. Navy.

We also enlist the services of Chris Parker, who provides weather prediction and planning for cruisers along the east coast and throughout the Caribbean. Chris transmits his forecasts each morning via SSB radio, with each region having a different time and channel to tune in. If you choose to, you can pay to talk with him about your upcoming passage, when to go and what route may be best to take. You may also pay to receive emails that Chris sends out daily for each region, allowing you to receive forecasts for all areas (east coast, Florida & The Bahamas, Eastern and Western Caribbean, etc.).

We take into account many sources, when planning to get from A to B safely and hopefully comfortably. The challenging, and maddening part is choosing when to go, because we all know that weather prediction is by no means a guarantee. Great weather at your start point may disappear as you travel, leaving you with something much worse on the other end. Since it’s rare to have perfect conditions throughout, you’re left choosing a weather “window,” which may remain open, or close shut along the way unexpectedly. This whole situation is so frustrating that I often think it easier to just flip a stupid coin.

The magic wind number for us, and for many cruisers we’ve met, is 15 knots. More than 15 isn’t necessarily dangerous, but can become a rough and uncomfortable go. However, we expect that if the forecast calls for 10-15 knots, it’s a safe bet that there will be higher winds at some point (due to no weather guarantee). Sometimes we get lucky, and 10-15 is actually what we get, but most times we experience higher winds for some (or all) of the passage.

Currents, tides and changes in depth all affect wave strength and height for the worst. We learned this during our many years of cruising in the Chesapeake Bay, but not knowing the challenges of specific areas that we travel through now, and are unfamiliar with, is frustrating. We usually have to learn the hard way, and for us the only real way to learn about these scenarios is from cruisers who have traveled the area before you. Unfortunately, their experience, travel speed and course usually differ from ours, so we have to pick out useful bits as we go.

Ok, so good or bad, we’ve chosen a window, now it’s time to prepare. Many people take a day to make food for passages, having quick, go-to meals to eat. We seem to spend our last days shopping, running last minute errands and spending time with our latest friends, so I usually make one thing, say pasta salad or something similar, and then have snack stuff on hand: fruit, granola/protein bars, chips and candy, microwave meals, etc.

Scott makes sure that the Aluminum Princess, and all else on the flybridge is secure, and does any pre passage engine room and system checks. He also spends much time going over our route, making navigation notes as needed. I do any “pending” laundry, a general interior boat cleaning and then secure everything inside that moves when we do. We also secure our table and chairs (our couch and tiki pole are permanently secured to both the floor and wall). We’ve learned to make sure that the fridge is full, and that towels are wedged in certain cabinets, to prevent rattling and clanging underway (which is maddening!).

Howard has come to know when we’re leaving on a passage, and prepares for the “torture” that is to come. As soon as Scott makes one beep from something electronic in the pilot house, Howard assumes a rigid, terrified position on the couch. It takes him hours to check his terror, and settle in. I’ve found that the best place for him to travel is on the couch in the saloon (unless we’re having a smooth run). There is motor noise, but that bothers him less than the wave noise outside the open pilot house doors. It also provides the least amount of movement for him, as I tuck him against the back of the couch, in a “pillow fort.”

We take shifts on watch in the pilot house, monitoring radar (especially important at night), gauges, speed, water depth and the chart/route. Many times, we have to make route changes to avoid shallow water, coral, submerged things and occasionally for dangerous (or “pirate”) areas. Most cruisers take turns in shifts that vary from four to six hours. Scott and I have gotten into a routine where we toss the ball back and forth during the day. Scott will fish, if conditions are right, we’ll catch naps or watch a movie if all is well.

Because I’m not keen on watching big water come at me, I have taken to doing the bulk of the evening watch, usually from just after dark until dawn. I have our Ipod at the ready, choose my favorite songs and go into late night dance party mode to pass the time. Because Scott has countless more hours on the water than me, I will wake him to consult or act on route and weather changes that are questionable (luckily, he can practically sleep and wake on command). This system usually gives him a chunk of sleep at one time.

If you ask me to sum up it up in my own words: in general, passages suck. Yeah, yeah, you’re out on the open ocean, with pretty water, dolphins, stars and such, but that’s usually just a small (in my opinion) part. Here’s our reality:

Your schedule and body clock are completely off from any kind of normal routine. When you should, or have time to sleep, you’re not always tired. Sleep often comes in bits, and is hard with the boat movement. I cannot shut out said movement in our staterooms, as they are located forward. Instead, I catch sleep on the couch in the saloon, sharing space with Howard. I wear ear plugs to knock down the motor noise, and a sleep mask to keep out daylight when needed. After a day or so, I’m so tired and turned around that I wake from what must have been a deep, restful lengthy sleep, to find that only 30 minutes has passed.

It seems we’re always craving what we don’t have to eat. I could prepare twenty different choices, but we’ll want something completely different. Scott and I find that we’re not normally very hungry on a passage, hence the stocking of snacks and such. Most times, we’ll just nibble, or eat whatever meal I’ve made right out of the bowl it’s in, who’s there to judge? We try to keep well hydrated, and resist the urge for a cocktail when things seem monotonous or when the weather and ride are stellar.

It’s challenging keeping Howard fed and watered for days at a time, when he usually isn’t interested in either. Using the litter box is also a challenge, as he has been known to hold it for days, which freaks me out. Lately, with the increasing heat and humidity, he’s had a hard time keeping cool. To prevent heat exhaustion, we cover him with cool, wet towels and direct one of our 12 volt fans toward him. Air from the fan evaporates the water in the towel, providing a cooling effect. He doesn’t love the towel, but tolerates it, realizing that it helps.

Bodily hygiene goes out the window, for the most part (again, who’s there to judge??). Showers can be challenging underway, and we opt instead to apply layer after layer of deodorant and powder or body spray. With the passage of time a blur, we have to remind each other that we stink, or to brush our teeth. Scott is especially good at trying to get as much use out of a shirt as possible. As a result, I can usually smell him as soon as he enters a room, and will immediately request a wardrobe change.

It’s usually hot, hot, hot inside the boat, especially if we’re going with the wind (no breeze), or if the sun is beating into the pilot house. The saloon stays especially hot, with the motor running constantly under the floor, which makes sleeping there even more inviting. We use cooling towels for ourselves as well, that are kept in the fridge, and drape them on our heads or around our necks. If a model agency caught sight of me during a passage, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t immediately sign me to a magazine cover deal!

The weather rarely seems to cooperate. Yes, occasionally we get a great run, where the waters are calm all the way. However, more often than not I am cursing the weather forecasts and sources that made us decide to go. Wondering if conditions will worsen and for how long is so stressful. Bad wind and weather can cause us to slow our speed, for comfort or safety, resulting in an even longer travel time…ugh!

We also have to be aware of our arrival time. Most anchorages aren’t favorable for arriving after sunset, or even when the sun is low in the sky (depth of water, coral, unlit or unmarked channels, etc.). Scott never likes to drop anchor in the dark, so we may have to slow or increase speed to avoid these situations. Igor, a fellow cruiser we met in Isla Mujeres, summed up how we often feel, with his Russian-accent and broken English, “Sailing…every day, bad.”

Time and days get monotonous, and by day three I am through with a passage (remember my statement about never crossing an ocean). I want to stop the motor, take a shower, get normal sleep, hit land and see people. I don’t have to know them, I just want to see and be around them.

The longer a passage takes, the more restless, impatient and cranky I become (Howard is right behind me). Our Delorme satellite tracker is invaluable. In addition to tracking our path on the blog, it allows me to text and email friends and family while underway. They are frequently berated with communications during my times of boredom and frustration.

Even though “passages suck,” there are definitely some positives:

We enjoy beautiful cloud formations, rainbows, sunrises and sunsets.

When skies are clear, the stars are amazing.

Dolphins visit regularly, and we never tire of seeing them play in the waves off of the boat.

It’s anything goes for food, eat what you want when you want.

Shower or not, no one cares.

I have gotten much more comfortable with big waves and swells, and how they move our boat (although I still prefer the black-out of the night shift)

Scott is a champ at keeping the faith, and keeping the passage “train” rolling.

Realizing that you’re traveling open ocean waters in your own boat is pretty cool.

In the end, good or bad, passages have given us perspective  on  feelings about safety, the power of mother nature, appreciating a good anchorage or the comforts of home. Scott equates it to the weekend not being as valuable to you if you didn’t work all week. After being in the same place for some time, we tend to get a bit too comfortable. As a our friend, Larry, a fellow Krogen cruiser has told Scott, “Sometimes, you just got to to to sea.”

Passages are also a means to an end for us. We can’t get where we’re going without them, so we adapt, adjust and get through it. Here endeth my version of the passage lesson.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Shopping Day

Once a week, supply boats arrive from mainland Honduras, delivering food and supplies of all kinds to Bonacca, the main settlement on Guanaja. If you remember, Bonacca (or the cay (key) as the locals call it) is a small cay off of Guanaja that is home to roughly 6,000 people. Here’s a neat before and after photo of Bonacca, that shows how much the cay has changed over the years.

“Shopping Day,” as it is referred to here, is a big deal, and we have been told by many local expats here about going to the cay for the day. Since we haven’t yet visited Bonacca on actual shopping day, it was on our list during this visit to the island. However, strong winds were going to make for a very “spirited” ride, as Scott likes to call it. As we hemmed and hawed about making the trip, we were invited to go with Hans, and some others on his sailboat…… shopping day here we come!

On Thursday morning, our ride approached. Hans towed a skiff behind him, that would be used to drop off trash and get fuel while in town.

We prepared for a quick “touch and go,” as Hans pulled alongside for us to get on board. Unfortunately, I didn’t scurry fast enough, and as the boat pulled away I didn’t have a firm footing. My choices were to either slip into the water, or do a back bend over  Sea Life’s side rail. I chose the latter, channeling my inner yogi.

There wasn’t a way for me to get a firm footing, and slide back onto the side deck, and I couldn’t reach anything with my hands either. So there I was, bent backward over the side rail, hanging on while Hans made a second pass (of course, Scott was upset that I had the camera with me during all of this!). It felt like 15 minutes, but eventually the boat came back alongside, and Scott grabbed me into a upward position so that I could get on. The day was off to an eventful start.

There were seven of us on Hans’ 23′ sailboat, so we were a friendly bunch, sitting in the cockpit and on the bow. We had a smooth sail, and arrived at the cay in under 30 minutes.

Hans has a dock that he uses in town, but it was full when we arrived, as was the second place he tried. We headed for the main city pier, and tied up in front of one of the supply boats that had just arrived.

It was quite a site on the pier, as the two large supply boats began to unload. Many locals work the pier for the day, helping to off load the boats, and deliver the supplies to stores in town. Since there are no cars, golf carts, scooters or bikes on the cay, all of the supplies are loaded onto flat beds, and rolled through the streets, to their destinations in town. The scene was like ants attacking food, and then scurrying away with the crumbs.

As we headed into town, Hans arranged for some “shopping cart” help (a man with a wheel barrow).  We turned and made our way down the main street, dodging carts loaded with produce.

I expected everyone to head to the stores, but realized that it would be hours before things on the pier would be delivered. Instead, we followed Hans and the others to an open air bar on the main street. Before long, the tables were full of expats, drinking and chatting.

Some had lunch at the bar, which is sold from a cart on site, and others headed off for a restaurant. We bought a really cheap, and really good lunch from the cart. You choose either fish or chicken, to go with side dishes (beans, rice, slaw, etc.). Scott managed to talk his way into getting both!

Ok, so we’ve eaten, chatted and had drinks. It was time to shop…right? I got up to head for the stores, and was told that they were closed for lunch until 2pm. Huh?? Then why did we get here at 11:00?? And where was the “shopping cart” guy during all of this?? I realized that this was just as much a social event as a shopping trip. Most people only go to town once or twice a week, so shopping day is a chance for them to see each other, spend time together and talk. This was all fine and good, but by 2pm, it’s stinkin’ hot!

I needed very little in the store (we had already stocked up on canned goods and other things in Roatan), and had come mostly for fresh bread and produce. However, we had come with Hans, who needed to stock up, so it seemed we’d be in town for most of the day. Good thing the beer was cold and cheap…we ordered two more.

To kill some time, Scott and I decided to walk and see if the man who bakes bread had any ready to buy. This is where we go to buy bread…welcome to cruising.

Unfortunately,  it would be another hour or so before the loaves were ready. We asked the man to hold two loaves for us, and made our way to one of the produce stalls. They were still unloading things, but we were able to buy what we needed.

After more socializing, and much, much sweating (the breeze that we enjoyed in the morning had shifted directions, away from the bar), we went to get our bread. It was still hot from the oven, and we left with open bags of both wheat and white.

It was now suffocatingly hot in the bar (where many people still gathered, did they even need groceries?), so we waited for Hans back at the main pier. There was a great breeze on the upper deck, where we watched the ants still hard at it at 4pm.

There were just four of us on Hans’ boat for the sail back, as the rest of our group rode in the skiff. The winds were blowing in the 30s, and as we rounded the far side of the cay, the boat was heeled far over. My short legs had trouble reaching the port side cockpit bench, which we had to stand on for balance, so I was keeping grip with my toes. I am by no means a sailor…give me my roll-ly pilot house anytime!

As we crossed the channel, waves began to break over the bow. We weren’t heeled over anymore, but it was now a wet ride. I took this photo just before I put the camera away, notice Scott  hanging on. We got that spirited ride after all!

As we approached Sea Life, Hans lowered the sail, making it much more easy to climb aboard! He then headed off toward his pier.

We’d done shopping day with the locals and survived. I think in future, I’d go for morning socializing, and stick to the quick in and out of Friday morning shopping! Here are more photos of shopping day.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

A Rental Car Day In Roatan

Scott and I rented a car for the day, to load up on groceries from Eldons, run other errands and drive the island a bit. The car was delivered to the marina, and the man who dropped it off took almost 30 minutes to look it over and check us in. He was frustrated that Scott’s credit card didn’t have raised numbers. They still use the sliding imprint contraptions here, so he had to hand write the numbers down..a daunting job.

We invited our new British friends, Jan and Richard, to come along with us (our first new British friends left last Saturday, and Richard and Jan arrived a day later!). They are cruising on s/v Morpheus, and we were all in Isla Mujeres at the same time. We never crossed paths there, but are having a great time together here!

First stop, Ace Hardware. Scott had been here before, and was surprised to find that it was just like walking into an Ace in the U.S. It’s a large store, with a great selection of a variety of items. We shopped, checked out and were on our way.

The phone store was next. Jan and Richard needed a sim card for their phone, and we wanted to buy some minutes for ours. The power went out while we were there, which happens regularly here on Roatan so we weren’t surprised. It usually comes back on quickly, and most all businesses have generators as well. However, computers obviously take time to re-boot, so we had to wait a bit before completing our check out.

After two unsuccessful atm attempts at two different banks in the shopping center, we decided to move on. I’m not sure if they’re effected by the power blips, but if so, they definitely needed more time to come back online.

It was on to Eldon’s, where Scott and I loaded up with non refrigerated/frozen items (they’ll have to wait until we get our new compressor installed) like canned and jarred foods, cleaning products, paper towels and Kleenex, cat litter, wine, rum and bug spray. Jan and Richard weren’t doing such a big run, so Scott ran them back to their boat. We didn’t want them to have to wait on us, and our two-cart list. It proved to be a good idea, as our things filled both the trunk and back seat of the little rental car.

With our errands finished, it was time for fun. The four of us set out for lunch at Cal’s Cantina. Both cruisers and locals have told us that the views are terrific from here, and they were correct!

We had lunch and then continued on. I spied a sign for Lionfish Louie’s, turned the car around and began following the arrows. We took the poor Kia up some steep road, but it chugged along. Eventually, we made our way back down to the water and parked in the sand. Louie’s is a huge property, but since there wasn’t a cruise ship in port, we had the place almost all to ourselves.

There were neat “tree umbrellas” along the beach. An original idea!

From there, it was on to the east end of the island. I was searching for La Sirena, a place that our friends Elizabeth and Ed had visited when they spent a few months anchored off of Fantasy Island in January. I’d also read a lot of good reviews about it online.

The paved road soon turned to gravel and dirt, with sizeable ruts, and I had to slow our speed considerably. As we traveled, it was really noticeable how dust-covered the trees alongside the road were. It has been usually dry lately, with no rain to speak of at all.

We also had to make our way over many speed bumps, that were very challenging for our little Kia. I found it odd that there were so many, considering you couldn’t travel above 10 mph due to the road conditions! No matter how much we slowed down, there was always a crunching or scraping noise as we went over them. It seemed as if they were meant to slow for four-wheel drive vehicles, being so high, but we saw endless scooters and motorcycles run over them just fine. Poor Kia.

At many points along the way, it seemed we must have missed a turn, as the road got worse and worse. Thankfully, there would be a sign every now and then for La Sirena…10 miles, 15 minutes, 2km. However, with the random distances and times, we had no idea exactly how far it was, and just hope it was soon…La Sirena must have read our minds!

Hallelujah, we’d finally made it! I have to say, it was worth the drive. La Sirena is just a shack that sits out on a pier, with two smaller covered seating areas.

It was definitely remote. We passed a “local,” napping in the sand, on our way to the pier.

I’d heard that they make a killer rum punch, and Scott concurred.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t linger long. With sunset nearing, we wanted to be on our way. Getting back onto paved road by dark would take some time, traveling at a snail’s pace.

Before leaving, I used the bathroom. Contrary to what you may expect, there was a working toilet inside, and it was very, very clean.

However, here’s the view through the wall, from inside said bathroom.

We piled into our poor, dust covered Kia (even the inside door jams were caked with the stuff) and started back up and down the mountain, stopping for a few quick photos before dark.

Scott took us on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride back to the marina, getting there just after dark. We stopped into the pavilion for a drink with our neighbors, before calling it a night. Here are more photos of our rental car adventure.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Groceries in Roatan

Groceries in Roatan have been easy to get to, for the most part, and the selection of food has been surprisingly great. When in West End, we went to shore and did a quick walk to Woody’s Groceries. Being in a touristy area, prices were a bit high, but the selection was good.

Just before Woody’s was a terrific produce stand, with some of the best fruits and vegetables we’ve seen.

Here in French Harbor, we have several options. Tuesday is grocery day here at the marina. At 11:30, a local man arrives with a truck load of fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs. When he pulls up it’s every man for himself, as cruisers grab what they need.

Howard loves the “veg” truck, as he’s crazy for pineapple leaves.

Later in the day, a mini bus arrives at 3pm to shuttle us off to Eldon’s grocery store. On our first grocery day, the bus was packed full, with all of the jump seats down the aisles in use. Yesterday, we had much more wiggle room.

The bus first stops at a gas station right near Eldon’s. Anyone needing dinghy or motor gas is welcome to bring their jugs along, and get off at the station to fill them up.  They then walk back to  meet the bus at Eldon’s, just a short distance away.

Eldon’s is awesome!!! It is huge, and full of familiar items and brands that we haven’t seen since Florida. We have heard that they get weekly shipments from Miami, which explains the many familiar sights from home.

We have an hour to shop, which was nowhere near enough for me on the first visit. There was so much sensory overload, that I barely had a chance to get anything on my list before it was time to get in line and check out, where we realized that tax here is close to 30%! Yikes!

It’s amazing how all of the people, groceries and gas jugs fit onto the bus for the trip back (especially with so many people last week). Grocery bags and boxes are stacked high in the back of the bus. Gas jugs are under seats or at feet and crush-able things are on laps.

It’s great knowing that we have a definite day of easy accessibility to food, but I wanted more time in that awesome store, so we set out in the Aluminum Princess for our own grocery excursion.

To get to shore, we headed to the Roatan Yacht Club. It’s currently closed, but there is someone there to collect 2.50 from you for tying up at the dock. The grounds, bathrooms and buildings are well maintained, considering the yacht club is closed.

We followed a path that led us up some stairs, through colorful trees and plants, past what was a hotel for the yacht club, but is now private apartments and onto the street.

Once on the street, it was just a five minute walk to Eldon’s.

On this visit, I had plenty of time to peruse every aisle, finding all kinds of welcome sights. I think I’ve mentioned that butter in Mexico was challenging. Here, I happily found good old Land o Lakes! I saw the Indian on the box, but heard angels singing!

We also found many different types of french fries…waffle cut, sweet potato, and onion rings! However, things like this will have to wait, until we get our fridge and freezer back to normal.

Once I’d had my fill of Eldon’s, and we’d reached our carrying capacity, we checked out and made our way back to the dock; up the road; through yacht club entrance; up, down, back and forth along the path; down the steps and back to the boat. If you’re interested, we took out Delorme satellite tracker with us. You can see our route to Eldon’s by clicking the link on our Where Are We Now page.

On Monday, we visited Bulk Gourmet, a store that carries specialty things shipped in from the States. The owners will stop by on their way in, and pick up marina guests who want to shop. Scott and I made our way across the rickety bridge, up to the main entrance and waited out by the main road.

We were picked up in a hummer (not a bad way to go), and delivered to the front door. Inside, there were all kinds of neat treats. Gourmet potato chips, ginger beer for Scott, peanut butter filled pretzels, and spices that weren’t available at Eldon’s. They also had a great selection of frozen meats, but again, that would wait for now.

We have been spoiled here in Roatan, with plentiful fresh produce and an enormous selection of groceries. Here are more photos of the food here, and our travel to get it.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Groceries In Mexico

In keeping with the grocery theme, and starting with Mexico..

Isla Mujeres provided several grocery options for us. Chedraui was a large store, with many food options. It was the furthest from a dock, but the selection was worth the walk.

There are have nifty escalators inside that firmly hold your cart, both coming in empty and leaving fully loaded. It amused me every time!

They have an “American/import” aisle, where we can get things like curry paste, pickles, olive oil and imported meats and cheeses. The selection of beer, wine and liquor is also decent. You can also buy clothes, dishes, a stroller, souvenirs and a stove if you like.

When purchasing baked goods, you take a tray and choose your own items (everything is out on open shelves). An attendant then weighs, bags and tags it. Much like the baggers at check out, they like to try an fit as many items as they can into one bag.

Some of our favorites items:

I love this “Mexican Chex Mix.” Scott, not so much, but that means less sharing for me!

Scott has found a favorite ham, for sandwiches, and I did a taste test for the best bacon (FUD, pronounced “food,” but I still say fud).

The Super Express, located in town, is just a few blocks from a dock where cruisers can leave their dinghies, making it a quick and easy go-to for food.

Although much smaller, it still offers an ample selection of our day-to-day needs.

We also made several trips to the Walmart in Cancun, which obviously offers a much greater selection. The seafood department is large, and operates like the bakery in Isa. You choose your fish (gloves are provided), and then it’s weighed, bagged and tagged.

Near the end of our stay, we finally ran out of paper towels that were purchased in Florida. What we bought in Mexico are “crappity-crap-crap.” They practically dissolve when any amount of liquid hits them…maybe a stand-in for toilet paper!

Once we’d stocked up in preparation for Honduras, I emptied out the storage area under our couch, to clean the floor and do a fresh inventory. After purchasing a sleeper sofa, Scott removed the sleeper part, and installed wooden braces so we have support for the cushions. We can now pack a ton of food and toiletries in this space!

All in all, we can’t complain about our shopping experiences in Mexico. Selection, a choice of stores…and cheap! Here are some more Mexican grocery photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”